The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #322 – Jesse and Jenny talk about new audiobook releases and recent audiobook arrivals.

Talked about on today’s show:
many sins, paperbooks, The Architect Of Aeons by John C. Wright, Tor Books, The Voyage Of The Basilisk by Marie Brennan, beautiful illustrations and blue text, cover art, a bias against bad art, the way kids talk about book covers, fonts and graphic design, stock photos, don’t mix serif’d fonts, use classic art in the public domain, don’t muddy it up, Graysun Press Class M Exile by Raven Oak, Star Trek, Self Made Hero, I.N.J. Culbard, The Shadow Out Of Time, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath, the difficulty of promotion for small press publishers, Horror!, The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker, John Lee, Macmillan Audio, Pinhead, Hellraiser, random bloody body horror, The Midnight Meat Train, Bradley Cooper, the way Clive Barker’s stuff works, Audio Realms, Limbus, Inc. Book 2, a shared world anthology by Jonathan Maberry, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary A. Braunbeck, Joe McKinney, Harry Shannon edited by Brett J. Talley, space for creativity, David Stifel’s narration of The Monster Men by Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Island Of Doctor Moreau meets Frankenstein done Burroughs style, The Man Without A Soul, David Stifel knows everything about Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, read by Scott Brick, Mad Max: Fury Road, 3D is a gimmick, Vampire Horror! by M.R. James, John Polidori, F. Marion Crawford, Anthony Head, M.R. James is the country churchyard ghost story guy, John Polidori was Byron’s Doctor, Mary Shelley won the contest, The Vampyre by John Polidori, Lord Ruthven is kind of based on Lord Byron, an autobiographical fantasy horror, music!, all the good D words, Survivors by Terry Nation, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, who wrote House, M.D.?, writing credit in the UK, a familiar premise, the original TV series and the remake, The Walking Dead, all the fun stuff we like about post-apocalyptic storytelling, simultaneous existence, The Death Of Grass by John Christopher, A History Of The World In Six Glasses by Tom Standage, our dependence on grasses, The Road, canned food isn’t a long term plan, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, deer in the woods, the high price put on poaching, the other solution is cannibalism (also not very sustainable), The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi, cutting water, this is already how things are, the atomic bomb scenarios are played out, the water problem, the new dust bowl, North Carolina and South Carolina, Seattle and Vancouver, Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick, read by Phil Gigante, a comic version of Doctor Strangelove, Marissa Vu, Paul Weimer, The Gold Coast by Kim Stanley Robinson, Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, Luke Burrage’s reviews of the Orange County books, Find Me by Laura van den Berg, silver blisters?, Guy de Maupassant style, The End Has Come edited by Hugh Howey and John Joseph Adams, Carrie Vaughn, Megan Arkenberg, Will McIntosh, Scott Sigler, Sarah Langan, Chris Avellone, Seanan McGuire, Leife Shallcross, Ben H. Winters, David Wellington, Annie Bellet, Tananarive Due, Robin Wasserman, Jamie Ford, Elizabeth Bear, Jonathan Maberry, Charlie Jane Anders, Jake Kerr, Ken Liu, Mira Grant, Hugh Howey, Nancy Kress, Margaret Atwood’s serial, Science Fiction in Space and the Desert, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, read by Mary Robinette Kowal and Will Damron, very sciencey, too many Jesses, Rob’s commute, Nova by Margaret Fortune, read by Jorjeana Marie, a human bomb, Imposter by Philip K. Dick, The Fold by Peter Clines, read by Ray Porter, another Philip K. Dick story called Prominent Author, a joke story, 14 by Peter Clines, Expanded Universe, Vol. 1 by Robert A. Heinlein, read by Bronson Pinchot, Blackstone Audio, Robert A. Heinlein is a weird idea man, Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey, Hachette Audio, Sword & Laser, The Darkling Child (The Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks, read by Simon Vance, Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, larger than life voices, The Red Room by H.G. Wells, the accents, BBC audio dramas of James Bond books, the David Niven Casino Royale, The Brenda & Effie Mysteries: Brenda Has Risen From the Grave! (4), Bafflegab, Darwin’s Watch: The Science of Discworld III: A Novel by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, read by Michael Fenton Stevens and Stephen Briggs, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, read by Julia Emelin, The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, read by Davina Porter, Sarah Monette’s The Goblin Emperor, coming of age in a fantasy world, librarians recommend!

The Brenda And Effie Mysteries (4) Brenda Has Risen From The Grave by Paul Magrs

Posted by Jesse Willis

Highway To Mars: Odile Thomas and Jim Moon discuss Children Of The Stones

SFFaudio Online Audio

Highway To MarsA recent Highway To Mars podcast features Odile Thomas (of the Sending A Wave podcast) and Mr Jim Moon (of the Hypnobobs podcast) discussing the 1976 TV serial Children Of The Stones.

The brief official description asks this question:

Is it an updated version of The Prisoner or an early version of Lost or in a class of it’s own?

You could also describe Children Of The Stones as kid’s version of The Wicker Man (except with the whole village doing goofballs) or as a very good episode of Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who (except starring Rog Blake) – but really, however you describe it, Children Of The Stones is a great combination of intelligent storytelling and intelligent characters in a very cool mysterious plot involving all the sort of stuff smart people are into. And thus its a great show for smart kids and smart adults alike.


Children Of The Stones

Posted by Jesse Willis

BBC Radio 4 Extra: Seven Blake’s 7 RADIO DRAMAS to air

SFFaudio Online Audio

BBC Radio 4 ExtraBBC Radio 4 Extra (the station formerly known as BBC Radio 7) will be airing the excellent Blake’s 7 series of prequel adventures over four consecutive Saturdays starting on Xmas eve. From the Blake’s 7 blog:

The BBC Radio 4 Extra season includes the premiere of ESCAPE VELOCITY on Saturday 24 December at 18:00hrs. Featuring ZOË TAPPER, JASON MERRELLS and TRACY-ANN OBERMAN, ESCAPE VELOCITY is scripted by award-winning writer/novelist, James Swallow. Other audio drama premieres included FLAG AND FLAME, written by Marc Platt, and POINT OF NO RETURN, also written by James Swallow.

BLAKE’S 7: THE EARLY YEARS is a thrilling new prequel series of audio stories that explores the origins of key BLAKE’S 7 characters before they met rebel leader Roj Blake, taking you back to where the seeds of rebellion against the Federation really began.

These re-imagined BLAKE’S 7 audio adventures have been described by news-stand magazine SciFiNow as “… a bold and revitalising addition to the Blake’s 7 story” and by as “morally complex, deeply noir.”

The audio dramas feature well-known names including COLIN SALMON (Doctor Who), KEELEY HAWES (Ashes To Ashes), BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH (Sherlock), GEOFFREY PALMER (As Time Goes By), MICHAEL COCHRANE (Sharpe) and ALISTAIR LOCK as Zen.

Here are the broadcast dates and (U.K.) times:SFFaudio Essential

Escape Velocity – Saturday 24th December, 2011 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Point Of No Return – Saturday 31st December, 2011 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Eye Of The Machine – Saturday 31st December, 2011 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Flag And Flame – Saturday 7th January, 2012 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
Blood And Earth – Saturday 7th January, 2012 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Dust Run – Saturday 14th January, 2012 at 18:00 |READ OUR REVIEW|
The Trial – Saturday 14th January, 2012 at 18:30 |READ OUR REVIEW|

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)

SFFaudio Review

Blake's 7 The Early Years - Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)SFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7 The Early Years – Jenna: The Trial / The Dust Run (Vol. 1.5)
By Simon Guerrier; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 70 Minutes [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: November 30, 2009
ISBN: 9781906577087
Themes: / Science Fiction / Galactic Empire / Dystopia /

The Dust Run – Jenna Stannis has grown up as a spacer, where the normal rules don’t apply. No school, no police, no public imperatives – that’s still all to come. But the situation on Earth is changing and the effects are slowly being felt throughout the Vega system. It’s going to mean trouble for a brash boy called Townsend – who Jenna doesn’t fancy at all. Soon Jenna and Townsend are competing in the Dust Run – racing shuttles through an asteroid field without using computers, making the complex calculations in their heads. It’s dangerous, fool-hardy and really good fun. But they’re playing for the highest of stakes…

The Trial – The election is going to change everything. A man called Roj Blake promises the voters new hope, an end to years of corruption. There are those who can’t let him be heard. But Jenna Stannis is determined to get his message out to the colonies. It’s been years since the Dust Run, and Jenna’s a changed woman. She’s left the Vega system far behind, using her exceptional piloting skills to carve out a life as a smuggler. Blake’s message could earn her a fortune – or cost her, her life.

This is the final two stories in the first Blake’s 7 The Early Years series. First up is The Dust Run. It starts with a framing story in which we see the cruelty of the Earth Federation up close. Under torture Jenna, a young woman, reveals everything about her truant past. Then, in the story proper, we meet her as a charming teen. She comes from an underemployed spacer family, has just a few friends but none of them are particularly trustworthy. For fun Jenna likes piloting shuttles at high speed through a region of space filled with a heavy concentration of particulates. It’s precisely her lightheartedness that sets Jenna up for a fall.

The Trial also uses the framing device but skips ahead in time to the events which lead to Jenna’s incarceration. The problem is that her interrogator also claims to be acting as her advocate! If Jenna is to have any chance of avoiding imprisonment on Cygnus Alpha she’ll have to shade the truth. This episode reminded me of the other great Orwellian episodes of serial SF (like Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Chain of Command” – in which Picard is tortured and Babylon 5‘s “Intersections In Real Time” – in which Sheridan is tortured). The darkness of Jenna Stannis’ Federation universe is equally Orwellian, but, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews of this series it has more than a touch of Brave New World in it too. This new Blake’s 7 series, like it’s TV predecessor, is an intelligent Science Fiction series that masquerades as consumable pop-culture “sci-fi”.

Carrie Dobro, who played a charismatic alien thief in the Babylon 5: A Call To Arms TV-movie and on the prematurely canceled Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade, stars as Jenna Stannis. Dobro has a star-level magnetism in both these productions. She’s sure of herself, a devious and clever power seeker, never fully in control, always seeking it, but at heart a sympathetic survivor. Simon Guerrier and Carrie Dobro have created a worthy back-story for Jenna Stannis. Highly recommended!

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Blake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity

SFFaudio Review

B7 PRODUCTIONS - Blake's 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape VelocitySFFaudio EssentialBlake’s 7: The Early Years: Zen: Escape Velocity (Volume 2.1)
By James Swallow; Directed by Andrew Mark Sewell; Performed by a full cast
1 CD – Approx. 1 Hour [AUDIO DRAMA]
Publisher: B7 Productions
Published: April 26, 2010
ISBN: 978190657709
Themes: / Science Fiction / Artificial Intelligence / Cloning / War / Aliens /

Based on Terry Nation’s seminal 70s science fiction TV series, The Early Years is a prequel series of audio stories that explores the origins of key Blake’s 7 characters prior to them meeting rebel leader Roj Blake. This latest entry to the ever-expanding series takes a new twist, concentrating on a character that doesn’t breathe or have any parents, the synthetic intelligence known only as Zen. When Roj Blake first stepped on board the mysterious, derelict alien spaceship Liberator, his every movement was monitored by the ship’s controlling intelligence, Zen Luckily, Blake and his rebel crew managed to gain the ‘confidence’ of this creation from an alien world and so he was able to use the Liberator in their quest for justice against the Federation. But the origins of Zen have remained a mystery, until now. What terrible catastrophe left the Liberator drifting and shattered? What drove the ship’s intelligence to murder its original crew? What dark secrets lie at the heart of this alien machine? And are Blake and his crew really safe on board the Liberator?

Often, you’ll want to know somebody’s back-story, and then later, when you actually get it – in a prequel story – you’ll find that it is far, far, far less interesting than whatever was going on in your imagination. For me, the years between 1980 and 1999 were ones filled with near-reverence for a fascinating character, the ultimate baddie: Darth Vader. But no amount of apologetics can possibly remove the sickly saccharine story of a nine-year-old Darth Vader filled with “a high concentration” of midichlorians. Yuck. And yet “prequel” is not always a dirty word. I don’t feel that way about The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and likewise the Blake’s 7 prequel stories (1.1 |READ OUR REVIEW|, v.1.2 & 1.3 |READ OUR REVIEW|, 1.4 |READ OUR REVIEW|). By far the most mysterious character in the original TV series was Zen, the artificial intelligence. Zen was pretty closed-circuit about its past, not revealing much over the two years it appeared in the series (1978 – 1980). In life Zen “projected a dour, non-committal personality” and would “reply to certain questions with the phrase ‘That information is not available.'” This left left open the possibility that Zen was hiding secrets or “secretly executing its own agenda.” In this magnificent audio drama we are given a genuinely interesting explanation as to why Zen was so very melancholic, why the ship was found crew-less, seemingly abandoned and drifting near Cygnus Alpha.

Zen: Escape Velocity clearly reveals the frightening truth about all of Zen’s character quirks and its cryptic answers from the TV series. But it also shows more. Back in 2008 I reviewed the Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures boxed set |READ OUR REVIEW| – the first three episodes of the new B7 audio drama series. One detail found within that review was that Zen was, unlike the original series, suicidal at the time of its discovery. Listening to Zen: Escape Velocity you will discovery exactly why that was so.

Six actors, Zoë Tapper, Jason Merrells, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Alastair Lock, Sam Woodward and Pamela Banks play different members of the original crew of the Liberator (back when it was still called “Deep Space Vehicle 2” and when Zen was called “SHIP-MIND”). The story, told by a careful cross-cutting backwards and forwards in time, shows the original crew welcoming their new PILOT, Zoë Tapper, aboard DSV2. Strangely, she is having memory problems and needs shepherding by the ship’s doctor. As the crew takes its positions and readies themselves for battle, we learn about their fascinating society. This is wonderful social Science Fiction like nothing exactly I’ve read or seen or heard before!

Zen (SHIP-MIND) only used the first-person, singular personal pronoun (“I”) once on the television series – it is used multiple times in this production. Zoë Tapper (who appeared in another Terry Nation re-imagined series) and Jason Merrells (playing the doctor), are the central sympathetic heroes of Zen: Escape Velocity. Alastair Lock, who also acts as a post-producer, musician and sound effects man for the CD, portrays SHIP-MIND (Zen). Sounds are rich, deep and best experienced in a quiet room. The stereo effect and a good set-of headphones,as I used, will bring an immense visual experience that belies the fifty-six minute running time. A five minute “Bonus Music Track” (original to this episode) rounds out the disc.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Commentary: SFSignal Mind Meld on favourite audiobooks (and audio drama) of all time

SFFaudio Commentary

SFSignal.comJohn DeNardo, of the magnificent SFSignal blog, recently asked me to participate in another “Mind Meld.”

Here’s the topic:

“What are your favorite SF/F/H audiobooks and/or audio fiction stories of all time?”

Here’s what I wrote:

As one of the people behind SFFaudio, a website devoted to SFF in the audio format, this is about the hardest question you could possibly ask me. I can’t even begin to start ranking all the gloriously wonderful audio I’ve had the honor of listening to over the last 20 years (unless you count SFFaudio as exactly that). But, I can throw out some titles that are absolutely terrific!

Since I began listening in earnest (around 1991), and to make it manageable, I’ll limit myself to just one audiobook (or audio drama) per year (sorted by publication date). To make it even easier, I’ll list only commercial productions – we have plenty of love for podcasts and other amateur audio on For starters check out our series called Five Free Favourites.

1991: The Best Fantasy Stories Of The Year 1989 (Dercum Audio – ISBN: 1556561431)
1992: The Wind From A Burning Woman by Greg Bear (Recorded Books) |READ OUR REVIEW|
1993: The Children Of Men by P.D. James (Recorded Books) |READ OUR REVIEW|
1994: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (Time Warner – ISBN: 9781570420528)
1995: Mind Slash Matter by Edward Wellen (Durkin Hayes) |READ OUR REVIEW|
1996: Friday by Robert A. Heinlein (Blackstone Audio – ISBN: 0786110546)
1997: Sci-Fi Private Eye ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (Dercum Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|
1998: Martian Time Slip by Philip K. Dick (Blackstone Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|
1999: Ringworld by Larry Niven |READ OUR REVIEW|
2000: The Reel Stuff edited by Brian Thomsen and Martin H. Greenberg |READ OUR REVIEW|
2001: Minority Report And Other Stories by Philip K. Dick |READ OUR REVIEW|
2002: Two Plays For Voices by Neil Gaiman (Seeing Ear Theatre / Harper Audio) |READ OUR REVIEW|
2003: The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer |READ OUR REVIEW|
2004: Ender’s Game (25th Anniversary Edition) by Orson Scott Card |READ OUR REVIEW|
2005: The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft Volume 1 by H.P. Lovecraft (Audio Realms) |READ OUR REVIEW|
2006: The Chief Designer by Andy Duncan (Infinivox) |READ OUR REVIEW|
2007: Blake’s 7 – Audio Adventures (Trilogy Box Set) (B7 Media) |READ OUR REVIEW|
2008: The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman (Recorded Books) |READ OUR REVIEW|
2009: Earth Abides by George R. Stewart (Audible Frontiers/Brilliance Audio ) |SFFaudio Podcast #073|
2010: The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison |READ OUR REVIEW|

Posted by Jesse Willis